By Harold Wayne Hamlin
The second story of an 11-part series sharing the very personal story of one Long Range Recon Green Beret and his time in Special Forces training.
Ralph and I walked around after breakfast seeing the sights and then went back to the day room (TV room for all of the dorms in the building) and visited with the few men who had arrived during the night and that morning. Some had arrived late and missed breakfast. I told them that the Mess Hall was open 24/7 here. About half the men left to go eat.
I sat and watched TV. A luxury! It had been over 10-months since I had seen a television. I had almost forgotten about TV. I didn’t know the rules for changing the channel, so I just watched it. Not Ralph, the puppy dog, he just went to the TV and started changing channels. A howl of protest went up from the men who had been watching the show.
“Hey, stupid, we were watching that, one short man complained.”
Ralph turned around and with no anger, no malice, no sarcasm, said, “Ok. Ok. I was just checking to see how many channels it had. Don’t get your panties in a wad.” He returned the TV to its original channel.
That was the first time for me to hear that term, “get your panties in a wad”. I liked it. It did not insult but implied female. But I have used it a lot over the years.
As Ralph sat down, he said, six channels. We had 14 in L.A.
Short man said, keep it quiet. We are trying to watch the show. I didn’t like short man but he was in the right. You have to respect, being in the right, regardless if you like them or not.
Ralph replied, “Ok, Ok I will shu…….”
Ralph spring up fast and raced for the door. He looked outside then back at me with a huge smile on his face, arms spread wide with two thumbs up, “She found me, Wayne. She tracked me down.”
As Ralph raced out the door, short man said, “Damn fool got some girl with him.” NOTE: He didn’t say ‘girl’ – but I won’t write what he said!
I looked short man dead in his eye, death flashing out of my eyes and said, “We should all be so lucky.” Short man was in the wrong. He looked away.
I had too much anger boiling inside of me trying to get out; not to hurt but to kill. My eyes and body language screamed my rage. On the outside, I was cool, calm, and deadly. Inside I was a massive storm of rage.
Ralph came back in and waved to me to come outside. He led me to the VW van and introduced me, “Liz this is my best buddy Wayne. Wayne this is my lovely, genius, sexy, wife, Liz.” After hellos, Ralph said, “Get in Wayne. We’re gonna go see the sights.”
I did not want to be a third wheel, nor did I want to get into another car until I checked out how they drove.
I declined and watch Liz take off.
I went to my dorm room and read my mountain man book.
After a couple of hours, short man came in. I got up and introduced myself and stuck out my hand for a handshake.
“My name is Sims.” He took my hand and immediately applied pressure to my hand. I let my hand go limp in his hand. He smiled and applied more pressure. I stared him in the eye unflinching. He applied more pressure trying to get a reaction out of me. I stood my ground and let him expend the strength in his hand. When his hand began to give out, I felt him start to release pressure on my hand.
In an instant, I flexed every muscle in my hand and forearm. I caught him totally off guard. I felt the bones in his palm roll in on themselves as he went to his knees. I did not apply more pressure because I had no more pressure. I had used everything I had in me.
Sims was still on his knees when Ralph walked in. I released Sim’s hand. Hell, my Dad had taught me that trick when I was 12 years old.
Sims stood up and said, “I am a black belt in Kung Fu.”
I replied, “I am a baseball bat in the middle of the night while you sleep.”
I pegged Sims for what he was; a braggart who CLAIMED to be a Kung Fu Master; assigned to my dorm room. I wrote Sims off for what he was, a bully, coward who had a huge small man complex.
Ralph never said anything to me about the incident nor did Liz or anyone else. My respect for Ralph went up a notch.
For the next two days the four dorm buildings filled up, but no one showed up to tell us what to do.
Ralph, Liz, and I drove all over the Post. I only had to ask about the library, museum, anything. They were eager to go there and just as excited as I was. Liz had spent all of 20 minutes looking at a map of not only the Post but the City of Fayetteville. I was so in awe of her and her photographic memory. I had never heard of such a thing.
I ask her how she did it. She said she did not know. She just knew. I ask her about test-taking. She told me she could read any book about any subject and make a 100% on any test. Then she explained that what she had was the total recall of facts but when it came to comprehension and applying those facts, that I would be better than her.
Ralph had found out through Headquarters that we didn’t need passes to leave the Post. We only had to be in uniform to come and go without passes. A pass was required if we were in civilian clothes. The rule was to be back in the dorm room by 1:00 am.
What Ralph and I did was wear our uniform shirt and hat when going in and out of the Post Guard House. We could change in and out of the uniform shirt and into civies very fast.
I put gas in the van, and we drove all over town.
Ralph and I were paid $315 a month. He gave all his money to Liz for food shelter and money for school. I had $100 a month sent to my Dad and $100 to my savings account. Out of the remaining $115 I spent most on maintaining my uniforms and with the leftover I purchased books, etc. I did not drink nor smoke, so I got by nicely.
Ralph and Liz did not smoke or drink, but their budget was very tight because they were saving all they could for college for the two of them. Liz had found a converted single car garage to live in.
No way could I ask Elise to live so simply. So, hand to mouth. It depressed me. Even if Elise was willing I just could not; my pride was not greater than my love, but I just could not. I made a decision for Elise; that was the second biggest mistake in my life.
On Saturday at 10:00 am an E8 Sergeant (3 strips above 3 strips below) showed up and posted a schedule on the day room bulletin board. He casually said to those of us in the room, “Tell everyone to read this schedule. If anyone misses any scheduled class, they can pack their bags and report to Headquarters to be shipped out immediately. You are men. We will treat you like men who are responsible. We demand you to be responsible. Go and party all you want, drink all you want, you mess up, even one time, you are out of here. Smoke all you want BUT under no circumstance will you smoke or drink in your dorm room or this building.”
He paused to let our minds catch up.
“You are men. There are four of you in a room. You four are responsible for what goes on in your dorm room. One of you smoke or drink in the dorm room then every damn one in that room, pack your bags, and get out. You take care of your problems in your dorm room. You are men. Do not come whining to us about your petty problems. Any questions?”
“Each dorm room will elect a dorm room representative and only he will be authorized to see the First Sergeant over at Headquarters for any needs. If the room rep takes petty stuff to the First Sergeant, look out, because he has kicked men out of Special Forces for sneezing. Are there any questions?”
I said, “How do we deal with problems between rooms Sergeant.”
The Sergeant sighed, “Are you an over-thinker Private?”
“Sir, Yes Sir, over-thinker underachiever Sir.” I thought my reply would have been greeted with approval as had been the case from day one of me joining the Army.
“Private, you are not in grade school anymore. I am not an Officer. I am a Sergeant and will be addressed as Sergeant. You will find no egos here so no more of those mind games.”
The Sergeant continued, “Any problems between dorm rooms will be handled between the room reps or the First Sergeant. Any more questions?”
There were no more questions.
“Ok then. Remember this. Your first responsibility is to yourself. Get to posted classes on time. Second, you are responsible for your dorm room. Third, you are responsible for the trouble-free operation of this building.”
I was so grateful that I had been present with the Sergeant to hear what he said directly. Any time you are having people, telling people, telling people, you have a mess.
I read the schedule. Tomorrow, Sunday, we had testing all day. We had to pass the Special Forces Equivalency Acceptance test before we could begin Special Forces Training. I was in shock. You mean after all I had been through, I was not in Special Forces yet?
For those who passed the test, Monday was uniform issue and Orientation classes. It was to be a busy week. Some days we were scheduled from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm.
Special Forces was a whole new ball game.
Sims had been present as had Walter our fourth roommate. Ralph was out with Liz at a church bingo and their free lunch.
Ralph returned about 1:00 pm and as we were all present in the room, I told Ralph all that the Sergeant had said.
When I got to the part about smoking in the room Sims interrupted me, “To hell with him telling us what we cannot do in our own damn room.”
“Sims you got one thing right.” I said, “This is OUR room. Get rid of your cigarettes. If you smoke in OUR room the three of us will throw your butt through that door and we will not open the door before we do it.”
Ralph had my back and Walter didn’t know what was going on between Sims and me.
Sims said nothing. I said, “Ok I vote Sims as Room Representative. Ralph immediately agreed with me. Walter did not say anything, and Sims said, “I accept.”
Submitted by Harold Wayne Hamlin, Lubbock, TX. Harold was a Sergeant in the US Army during Vietnam, serving 16 missions with as Long Range Recon Green Beret while serving with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) and Command and Control North (CNN); where he was awarded a Purple Heart. Harold is also a retired Lubbock Fire Fighter.